Charles Martin, 844-3698


AUBURN -- One of the nation's leading dog trainers has been lured away from the Secret Service to operate Auburn University's new canine and handler training center proposed for Anniston.

Ed Hawkinson will train detector dogs for AU's Institute for Biological Detection Systems, which conducts research on the odor detection of explosives, drugs, and even cadavers under water.

The Anniston branch is scheduled to open during calendar year 2000 on a portion of the Fort McClellan Reservation being vacated by the Army. Congress designated the military base for closure four years ago.

"We were looking for the most experienced trainer for this program," said Tim Moore, IBDS director. "We plan to combine his 35 years of real world experience with Auburn's research excellence. Mr. Hawkinson understands the need to integrate scientific principles in the training of dogs and handlers."

Hawkinson, a Mobile native, spent the past 15 years in Maryland with the Secret Service, concentrating mainly on training dogs to ensure the safety of the president and to secure critical government sites. Previously, he worked 20 years for the Air Force and was once the only procurer of dogs for the Department of Defense. In 1983, he and his dogs were featured in a four-page article in People magazine.

"The center will be a great opportunity for Anniston and Auburn University, as we hope to provide training for agencies around the world," Hawkinson said. "It should be an educational mecca for Alabama and a place that will be recognized internationally."

Within the first five years, the center is anticipated to provide a total economic impact of $11.5 million in Anniston and Calhoun County, according to a study by the Auburn University at Montgomery Center for Government and Public Affairs. Fifty employees are expected to be working at the center at the end of the fifth year.

Canine team training will be offered to federal, state and local agencies in areas such as detection of explosives or drugs. In addition to training the dogs, the center will provide a hands-on education for their handlers and they will be informed about IBDS's research at AU. The cost will vary according to the type of training and length of course, ranging from two to 16 weeks.

"The training school will provide information based on scientific findings," Hawkinson said. "Officers need to know why and how a dog detects specific material. It should really help them in the courtroom."

Hawkinson says the center will supply a dog if a client requests it.

"The breed depends on the customer's preferences," he said. "A popular breed now is the Belgian Malinois, as well as the German shepherd and Labrador retriever. But each dog must meet strict health and physical requirements before becoming a candidate for training."

Moore added that Hawkinson will work six months at the Auburn IBDS site, based at the College of Veterinary Medicine, before he relocates to Anniston.

"This is a great opportunity for Auburn University and the Institute for Biological Detection Systems," Moore added. "The support from the university and the College of Veterinary Medicine, especially Dean (Timothy) Boosinger, has been tremendous."

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